Overcoming Fear of Falling

Overcoming the fear of falling (FOF) is an innate, natural fear in humans and mammals. FallingIt is a reflex for newborns and infants. Many older adults fear falling after they experience a fall. FOF is also known as baso or basi – phobia.

Fear on its own is a helpful signal of danger. It makes us focus on the issue at hand, to help resolve it, or at least take important precautions. However, fear also affects our quality of life when it limits our activity and keeps us from the things we enjoy or need to do. Overcoming the fear of falling allows us to regain our sense of control and independence.

Research shows that a third of older adults over the age of 65 do fall. That percentage rises 10% with each decade. It is very likely that up to half of seniors who are worried about falling, shy away from activities which would be helpful to them.

Unfortunately, a hyper fear of falling tends to lead to greater inactivity, immobility and more falls. FOF is a serious condition which itself correlates with disability. Seniors who have not fallen, likely know someone who has and they know the consequences of a fracture or other injury. So, their fear of falling impinges on their sense of independence.

Falling usually happens when we:

*trip over something (depth perception)

*lose our balance,

*have a poor gait

*weakness in feet, legs, core

* Vision, inner ear or sensory issues in the feet (neuropathy).

First, discuss these issues with your primary physician. Have a vision, hearing and balance test. Consider consulting with a neurologist if your fear and falling persist. Get an order from your doctor for Physical Therapy which will assess your balance, gait and strength. Then the PT will individualize your plan for better balance and movement.

If your fear persists and contributes to a broader negative thought pattern, consult a therapist or counselor. This may be a phobia which requires specialized treatment.

So how do we rebuild confidence and reclaim our quality of life, safely?  EXERCISE and MOVEMENT are the keys to building strength in our legs, butt and core (Abdomen). With physical strength comes confidence which begets greater mobility, range of motion and activity.

If you have fallen, it may take more time to overcome your fear of falling. Once you recover from any injuries and most of your normal strength, confidence follows.

Fall Prevention Tips:

*Assess why you are falling

*Check with your doctor about a Physical Therapy order and what activities are safe to do.

*Review each room in the house/garage for safety.

*Improve lighting between bedroom and bathroom.

*Exercise outside of therapy –strength, balance and gait training are your focus.

*If you need to use a cane or walker – do so.

*Start small and take it slowly with activities you want to return to. Walk in a mall, off peak hours for example or walk in a pool where the water supports you.

*Try Tai Chi, Yoga, and if your doctor approves, Pilates.

*Dancing and stretching.

*Grab bars in the shower, a bar for your mattress, getting rid of or taping down rugs.

*Check with your pharmacist on whether any of your medications cause dizziness or tiredness.

Fear and anxiety are uncomfortable emotions. When they limit us, depression likely follows. The good news is that there are many things you can do to overcome your fear of falling, bolster your confidence, improve safety and reclaim your quality of life.